Texas put up $3 billion in taxpayer money and promised cancer breakthroughs. But a criminal investigation, widespread rebuke from scientists and the resignations of embattled state officials came faster than medical discoveries.
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas launched in 2009, flaunting the second-biggest trough of cancer research dollars in the country. Nobel laureates eagerly took jobs with the agency and celebrity Lance Armstrong lent visible and then-coveted support. It was an unprecedented state-run battle against a worldwide killer.
Three years later, it’s become unhinged by suggestions of politics and personal profit and is on the ropes.
“People expected that we get some good results. Not that we make people rich in private companies doing cancer research,” said Cathy Bonner, a cancer survivor who was a close aide to former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, and who helped brainstorm the idea for CPRIT. “I can’t imagine anything lower than misuse of research money that’s meant to save people’s lives.”
Embroiled by two lucrative grants approved despite scant review — or none at all, in one case — CPRIT is ending a year of turmoil saying the beleaguered agency is cooperating with separate prosecutor investigations. One is by a public corruption unit that convicted former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on money laundering charges, and is beginning this probe trying to recover key internal emails CPRIT says it cannot retrieve.
The investigations opened last week after CPRIT revealed its latest and most serious blunder: Giving a private biomedical startup, Dallas-based Peloton Therapeutics, an $11 million award in 2010 without ever scrutinizing the merits of the company’s proposal. The discovery came on the heels of the agency funding a $20 million project roundly condemned for not first undergoing an independent scientific review…
Amid the escalating troubles, an agency that doled out more than $800 million in three years has practically ground to a halt…
Gov. Rick Perry and other elected leaders are now talking tough about transparency and getting to the bottom of the Peloton grant.
Well, golly gosh, Rick – ain’t it special finding sufficient integrity after the fact, after the waste of millions of taxpayers dollars, that you think someone should take responsibility to divvy up the corruption?
How about presuming there might be some need to keep an eye out for deceit and theft when throwing sums of money around?